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'Learning about respiratory disease feels too close to home, can I still succeed as a nurse?'


Can you advise this student nurse?

“Mid-way into my first year my Mum was rushed into hospital with breathing difficulties. She was in hospital for three weeks and given two different diagnoses: COPD, and  cardiac and respiratory failure.

“I told my mentor at the start of placement what was going on, but at the end was failed for “having my head in the clouds”. This massively knocked my confidence and made me question if I should carry on with the course.

“I am only able to visit home twice a year given the distance/cost of travel and I know that both my parents withhold details from me, they have the best intentions but it ultimately makes me worry more.

“As a result, I have one big concern.

“The other day I was in a lecture… about COPD. The lecturer was throwing out all these facts and figures about life expectancy, showing pictures of the effects and so on. It’s something I’ve tried to shut out… I specifically didn’t look up life expectancy for COPD patients. I know that there is no cure, I know it’s about maintaining quality of life and preventing disease progression. I got rather emotional, and had to leave the lecture as discreetly as I could.

“If I struggle with a lecture, how am I going to cope if I find myself caring for respiratory patients on placement?

“If I don’t learn to disconnect personal from professional, realistically I’m never going to succeed in this career! But I just don’t know how I can overcome this… can anybody help?”

- Rachel, London



Readers' comments (4)

  • Have you considered moving to a uni nearer to home? I also have subjects within nursing that feel close to home and i struggle with, but luckily home is only an hour away for me which helps if I am feeling down.
    When I first started my course I had a massive phobia of going in to an intensive care ward as I had a close family member die in there :( On my second day of placement as a first year I had to go down to ICU to get something with my mentor... I didn't know how I could do it I nearly had a panic attack. However over the course of the placement going to and from ICU for various reasons I began to face and overcome my fear in this area.
    I understand it is different for you and so awful for you and your poor mum. But trust me you can do it. Keep at it and believe in yourself! Have your mum as your inspiration to help her and care for her as best you can :) You will succeed and you will be a great nurse!
    Hope this helps x

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  • Two and a half weeks ago, I watched my grandmother die in the hospice from an obstructed bowel. I had always admired hospice care, so it was wonderful to experience the compassion first hand. This was the first death I had seen, so it has hit me massively. A week after, I started a placement working in a clinic, mainly with cancer patients. Although difficult, I have learnt to use my raw experience to really make my skill of empathy significant.
    This personal experience will only make you a better, more empathetic nurse. Amongst your fellow students, you will know more about the psychological, social and medical aspects of the condition - which can only better your studies. You WILL overcome it, and remember having a cry when working with a respiratory patient makes you human - and I'm sure it will probably be appreciated to see how much you care, and you're not hardened to the effects of ill-health. You will be able to say when caring for a respiratory patient, if this was my mum, I would give the best care possible, and then you can give it to someone else's mum or dad, or whoever, in the same position.
    I now want to specialise in palliative and end of life care, mainly because of my grandmother.
    Let this experience be your fuel to make your mum proud, and also yourself. Good luck.x

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  • Thank you both for your lovely comments - this has really helped me put everything into perspective. A lot of Nurses go into this profession fuelled by previous experiences, that gives me confidence that I can use it to my advantage as you have mentioned!

    I want nothing more than to make my Mum and myself proud. I completely agree in that we are not always going to be emotionally hardened to every scenario - as nurses we are often expected to bear the weight of emotion independently - though as a student it can be useful to reflect with your mentor which has helped in the past.

    Again thank you so much for your comments - they have given me the faith I needed :)

    Rachel xx

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  • Just referring to Olive's comment - I did strongly consider it at the beginning of the year. Was in contact with a number of senior lecturers at universities near home.

    They were all extremely lovely and helpful - but the stumbling block was my hours in placement. At my university, we only complete 14 weeks in the first year. They didn't want me to make myself unwell catching up on hours in the little time we have free in holidays, but wished me the best.

    So sorry to hear about your loss - that must have been difficult for you. Well done to you for building up the strength and letting your experience inform your practice for the better!

    Thank you both once again for your lovely comments.

    Rachel x

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